Buffer zone bill will deliver strongest protections in the UK

Details of new safe access zone Bill reveal the distance, preventative measures and punishments that will protect health care staff and patients

Scotland’s new buffer zones will offer the strongest protections in the UK, Scottish Greens MSP Gillian Mackay has revealed. 

Her Members’ Bill to introduce safe access zones to stop anti-choice campaign groups from protesting outside medical centres and abortion service providers across Scotland was published this morning by the Scottish Parliament. 

Details of the bill show that it will:

  • Stop anti-choice protests from taking place within 200 metres of medical facilities.
  • This would be the highest minimum limit anywhere in the UK and would apply to the limits of the site.
  • It also includes extension powers that allow health boards or ministers to apply to have the size of a zone extended.
  • The bill would allow for an unlimited maximum fine for people who breach it.

Ms Mackay has received cross party support, with more than 70 MSPs, including the First Minister Humza Yousaf, backing her campaign.

She said: “There is no excuse for the harassment that far too many people have had to endure when accessing healthcare. These protests should not be happening, and, today, we are an important step closer to ending them for good.

“We have learned from those who have worked to deliver buffer zones in other countries, particularly in Northern Ireland. The legal precedent that was set when the Supreme Court upheld their bill is one that we have taken a lot of confidence from.

Scottish Greens · Gillian Mackay reveals detail in buffer zone bill

“The bill I have lodged builds on these experiences, and I am confident that it will provide the best protections anywhere in the UK. 

“These protests have gone on for far too long. I am determined to ensure that the appalling and distressing scenes we have witnessed outside hospitals and abortion clinics are stopped.

“There were more than 12,000 submissions to my consultation, showing the strength of feeling on this issue. These submissions have allowed us to prepare the strongest and most robust possible bill.

“I am grateful to everyone who has helped us to get to this stage. We would not have got to this stage without the support of MSPs, campaigners and colleagues from across our parliament and government. 

“Most of all, I am grateful to everyone who took part in my consultation and who has shared their experiences and trusted me with their stories. I will do everything I can to ensure that we do you justice and ensure that nobody else has to endure what you have.”

Women’s Health Minister Jenni Minto said: “I congratulate Gillian Mackay on her Bill.

"This is an important milestone towards seeking national legislation to protect women from unwanted influence, distress or alarm when accessing abortion services.

“The decision to access abortion services is an individual and personal choice which should not be subject to public demonstration or influence outside premises providing abortion services.

"It is unacceptable for women to face any fear of intimidation, harassment or unwanted influence when accessing essential healthcare services. It goes without saying that the same goes for healthcare staff doing their job.

“The Scottish Government is grateful to Ms Mackay for the work she has undertaken to reach this stage and we will continue supporting her Member’s Bill as it makes its way through Parliament.

“This Bill is not an attempt to restrict freedom of expression, but to safeguard public health and protect the right of women to access healthcare without obstruction.

"The Bill is targeted at activity opposing abortion outside premises providing abortion services and will not limit the ability to oppose abortion in any other locations.”


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